Starving Artists in the New Millenium

The title of "starving artist" has been around for a long time.  The phrase conjures up visions of thin and raggedy people, who because of their passion to create, don't eat, sleep or take care of themselves.  They are seen as preoccupied, driven, genius beggars who depend on some enlightened patron to support their art habit.  They let the world narrow to the pinpoint precision of their creativity.  They are the nerds and geeks of the arts and crafts community.

And now comes the reality.  Craft artisans are real people who are mostly "normal".  They have friends, support families, care for their communities and are fairly responsible.  That describes most of the artisans I know and I know plenty.  I'm sure there are some "starving" stereotypes out there somewhere but I know of very few who can't eek out their own survival, even if it means a "regular" job.  I will admit however, that my artisan friends have not gained great material wealth from their hand work.  They often lead humble but comfortable lives with amazing owner-built  homes filled with traded treasures. 

According the the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the "average" craft artisan salary was just over 29,000.00 per year for the year 2012.  This means that (assuming) working a 2000 hour year (2 weeks off), craft artisans can expect to earn just over 14 dollars and hour.  

MIT's Poverty in America website indicates that $8.01/hr or $16,652.00/yr is the calculated "living wage" for the state of West Virginia.  If you happen to live in California, the "living wage" is $11.20/hr or $23,295.00/yr. This is for ONE person.   Living wage refers to stability in housing, food, trasportation costs and some savings.  No mention was made of health care in my readings.  So stay healthy!   Looking at this, it seems that a typical crafts artisan can put a little food on their table. If they have kids, they would have to earn more  than the average artisan.  Having a spouse who is a higher wage earner can sometimes create the balance.  Having a large inheritance or winning  the lottery can also help.....

If you are a full-time craft artisan, living humbly and having time and space to create may be all the wealth you want.  The daily routine of getting into the "zone", following your inspiration and coordinating eyes, hands and mind to create beautiful things is a life's work beyond compare.  

Many of us still work with ancient crafts like weaving, pottery, jewelry making, metal smithing, wood working, leaded glass, etc.  This new millennium offers craft artisans unique opportunities to expand our creativity, try out new materials and processes and grow our skills.  These efforts are made so that one day, we can  share our knowledge with the youth who are clamoring to become the starving artists of tomorrow.

I would like to share some beautiful work from the hands of some very talented artisans who have found a way to make it all work.  Because I know so many talented artisans, I will narrow this feature down to a few people who make stunning and original work and also take the time to support other artists!  Feast your eyes below.


Dog Rescue Earrings Handmade Copper Paw Prints Hearts, Amethyst Lampwork Jewelry

From Catherine Waterhouse of Shadow Dog Designs, her ASPCA earrings!


Dog Lovers Tri-fold Wallet, Fabric Clutch | SewAmazin

For dog lovers from Donna of Sew Amazin

Pink blossoming tree in spring time featured for this handmade thank you card

From teacher and card maker Lisa Bennett.

Shoulder Shawl Scarf Ladies Handknit Victorian Rose Caron Simply Soft

From multi-talented Nancy Tonelli.


Knitted Cowl from Cathy Morgan of Cathy Creates.

Transparent Yellow Straw Handmade Lampwork Glass Beads 049 Silver Etched

Beautiful lamp work beads by Charlotte Hayes of Covergirl Beads.

beaded lanyard id necklace in green and orange with angel

From master lanyard maker, Peggi Hacker.

From fiber artisan, Ruth Sandra Sperling of RSS Designs in Fiber.

Handmade OOAK Bracelet Sugilite Pink Amethyst Swarovski AB Silver With Decorative Toggle Clasp

From Jewelry Artisan Barbara Len of SolanaKaiDesigns.

Gypsy Vanner Horse Equine Keychain or Zipper Pull - Gunilla Wachtel

A key chain by Gunilla Wachtel.

Green Lampwork Amethyst Bracelet, Bali Style Beads and Toggle Clasp, Handmade Beaded Jewelry

Beautiful beaded bracelet by Pretty Gonzo.

Amazing polymer clay jewelry by Anna Garner.

Pink Flower Lentil Beads, Beads,  Handmade, Polymer, Jewelry Making Supplies, Bead Supplies

Beads by the talented Julie Cleveland.

3 x 5 index card binder, pink paisley, mini note journal, address book index card holder with a set of tabbed dividers

Creative index binders found in Carla Sadler's Etsy shop.

Vintage Elephant Tags in Blue a

Cute and creative tags by Natalie Hermawan of adorebynat.

Blue Green Mother of Pearl Swarovski Crystal Silver Beaded Bracelet

Stunning bracelet fron Diane's Dangles shop on ArtFire.

Jaw dropping color bead work by that Twisted Red Head, Mary Beth Johnson.

One-of-a-kind jewelry by Kathy Laniu of KatsAllThat  ArtFire

Handmade soaps by Debbie Lamb.

Earthy bead selections by Sharon Troncalli.

All that Jazz Dotted Handmade Dichroic Fused Glass Dangle Earrings

Finally, one from my shop!   Umeboshi

These finds are just a hint at what may be keeping some of these talented artisans from starving!  Please visit their shops to see what new and wonderful creations they are offering!


What a fascinating post, Jo!

What a fascinating post, Jo! Hahaha . . . boy, I would LOVE to make $29,000 a year (: I have often thought about trying to figure out my hourly wage, but decided I'd just get depressed. But, it's a passion and I LOVE what I do. Especially when making dog rescue earrings - am thrilled you featured my newest. Thank you! So many other pretties from other artist friends are also included. Will share the post with the world now! Thanks again.

BTW, the food in the top

BTW, the food in the top photo looks fabulous!!! Something you cooked?

Thanksgiving at my farm

Thanksgiving at my farm table. Pot luck is best!

Love this!!

Jo, this post is after my own heart. How I dream of the time when I can finally retire from my corporate day job to just focus on what I love to do. I am very willing to sacrifice (well, maybe not my wine), to live a simpler unrushed lifestyle. Someday!!! I so enjoyed this and am definitely sharing on all sites! Thank you for including my leather wrap bracelet in the mix.


I am so glad you put "normal" in quotes, Jo! It's all relative, isn't it. :) I really enjoyed reading the interesting facts you shared as well as perusing so much artistic goodness. Thank you for writing this blog and for including my sugilite bracelet amongst such artistry. Sharing!

Thank you!

What an interesting post about the stereotypical starving artist. Yes, the reality is that we do what we love. Some may actually make a living at their craft, but for many of us it is a labor of love. I am pinning this post and will refer back to it since you included links to all the shops featured. These are some of my favorite handmade shops and I am happy to share them with others! Oh, and a big thank you for including my little shop of unique essentials in your list of favorites! :)

Starving Artists

Well, does it count if I am a dieting artisan? Very thoughtful and beautifully illustrated blog, Jo. I will promo it from here so that you get some direct links for your hard work. Then I will comment again at CPP. Thanks for including my PC piece.

It's an honor to have my

It's an honor to have my wallet included as part of this collection of work! Thank you so very much, Jo!

We may not be starving, but I'd say we all have a hunger to create!

Thank you

Wouldn't that be wonderful to actually make a living on doing something you love. Thank you for sharing this fascinating blog and including my bracelet.

What creativity you've

What creativity you've featured here, Jo! I'm in constant awe of the talent we see on display regularly from these wonderful artists. I agree with Barbara - 'normal' is relative, and the older I get, the farther from 'normal' I want to be LOL! Great blog, lots of interesting facts. Thanks so much for including my lanyard. Oh, and P.S. I'm coming to your house for Thanksgiving this year :)

Starving Artists

What an interesting post on "starving artists"! I love your creativity in coming up with the idea for it. The talent showcased here is amazing. You can see the love in each handmade piece. Thank you so very much for including my red jasper necklace in this great post.

Interesting post!

Like Catherine, I would be thrilled to make $29,000 a year creating jewelry - or even a quarter of that! :) Thanks, Jo, for a very interesting and thought-provoking blog post, and for including my bracelet here. I'm extremely honored. Will be sharing! Also, I want to come to your house next Thanksgiving too! :)

Beautiful selections

Thank you, Jo, for including my cowl among these beauties. Shared.

Starving Artists

Thank goodness I'm retired and not starving!

Great blog, interesting, fun, and true.

I appreciate you including my beaded id lanyard necklace and will share.

Very insightful and

Very insightful and well-written article. The food in the top photo looks delicious and the items included in the feature looks wonderful!

Thank you for including my keychain with the Gypsy Vanner Horse print. Sharing!

Great Post

Well done, Jo! Thank you for this insight into the starving artist; it was enlightening, especially the wage quotes. I wish I made that much making my beads :D thank you for sharing my beads, and I have shared your post. Now, I have a goal to work towards: 29,000.00 Julie and Blu

"Mostly Normal"!! Love it

Absolutely loved reading this post Jo - I'll take being mostly normal :) I would certainly love to be doing nothing but creating all day, but, as you so eloquently pointed out that would hardly fit anyone's reality (especially those living in California!) I consider my own crafting time and income from it as part of my life balance - between my job as a teacher and my time in my studio.

Oh and by the way your Thanksgiving feast at the top looks delicious too.
Thank you for including my card in this great showcase of talented artisans.


Starving Artists

Enlightening article you've written. Those would be the days to make that much money doing what I love! Is that on the gross or net profits? We would never starve with that delicious feast at your table. It's yummy and makes me hungry. Love all the glorious creations from dedicated artisans! Thanks for including my soft amber lampwork beads.

Great post, Jo! I truly enjoy

Great post, Jo! I truly enjoy reading it and it's so true. Oh how I wish making $29K through crafting is that easy. Thank you for including my blue elephant tags. I have put the link of this post to the listing, creating backlink, as well as pinning and tweeting it.

Starving Artists in the New Millenium | Umeboshi Jewelry Designs


What a great post! Thanks so

What a great post! Thanks so much for including my shoulder shawl!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To help us prevent spam, please prove you're human by typing the words you see here.